American popular culture has a penchant for calling objects of desire by their French name. In the 1992 major motion picture, Wayne’s World, the titular character, Wayne Campbell—played by (Canadian actor) Mike Myers—describes his love interest by saying, “She’s a fox! In France she would be called le renard, and she would be hunted with only her cunning to protect her.”
Perhaps more famously, in the 1994 Quentin Tarantino masterpiece, Pulp Fiction, Vincent, played by John Travolta, asks his friend Jules, played by none other than Samuel L. Jackson, “You know what they call a Quarter Pounder with cheese in Paris?” After a brief reminder of imperial measurements, he proceeds to tell him, “They call it a Royale with cheese.” For good measure, he also explains that a Big Mac is known as Le Big Mac.
So let me take a moment to tell you, dear reader: in France, a half-pint is called un demi.
When referring to a person, half-pint might mean diminutive or inconsequential. [Editor’s note: I’ve actually called Kyle this for years.] But when referring to a unit of measure, half-pint basically means perfection. At least for draft beer, anyway.
It’s just so damn splendid when a bartender places eight fluid ounces of beer in front of you and you know that you can fully enjoy it or explore it or do whatever it is you like to do with your full-pint-beer with it and also, hey, you know what, you’re not that committed to it.
So if it turns out that it’s not that good or it’s just not what you’re looking for or the doggie daycare calls and says “everything’s totally all right” but that there’s a “situation” and you need to “come get your dog immediately,” well, it’s not that big of a deal.
A half-pint is freedom, or what the French call liberté.
The other really delightful thing about a half-pint is the way it feels in your hand. It feels novel. It feels fragile, like a little hollow-boned bird you could crush accidentally. It feels the way I imagine a regular-sized can of beer must’ve felt in Andre the Giant’s incredibly massive hands.
Legend has it that Andre once drank 106 beers in a single evening. One hundred and six 12-ounce cans of beer! That’s bonkers. That’s 1,272 ounces of beer. It’s 159 half-pints. That’s unattainable for us mortals, who are but mere half-pints in comparison to Andre. Speaking of outsized legends, half-pints allow you to establish lore of your own while still being honest. Tell your friends you had 20 beers last night. They don’t need to know it was really just 10 pints’ worth.
A half-pint is empowering, or what the French call habilitant.
The half-pint allows for more freedom. More flexibility. More exploration. More experimentation. The half-pint allows for a beer to be enjoyed or coddled or forgotten or discarded. The half-pint allows for what you’re drinking to fade into the background. And perhaps best of all, it allows for you to get lost in conversation, lost in thought, lost in the moment.
It’s so small it’s almost inconsequential. Compared to a full-pint, it’s less. But as famed designer Dieter Rams would say, it’s “less, but better.”
And that is a proverb. Or what the French call le proverbe.